Spagnola writes about how the Cowboys are making moves for a new style of offense.
A roster turnover, dating back to the past two seasons, adding the likes of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Maliek Collins, Jaylon Smith, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, Kavon Frazier, Taco Charlton, Charles Tapper, Noah Brown, Cooper Rush and Rod Smith.
And the transformation will continue. Dez Bryant, an eight-year veteran, is gone. Jason Witten’s departure dangles precariously on a precipice after 15 years. Anthony Hitchens is gone. Orlando Scandrick was sent packing after 10 seasons. No more Justin Durant or Keith Smith. No more Jonathan Cooper or Brice Butler, James Hanna, Benson Mayowa, Kellen Moore (as a player) and Alfred Morris.
As I’ve said before, these are not Tony Romo’s Cowboys.
Very few veterans should feel entitled to start or to inherit roster spots, excluding the likes of Dak, Zeke, Tyron Smith, Sean Lee, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, La’el Collins and DeMarcus Lawrence.
The Cowboys’ draft moves are all connected to their quarterback, writes Moore.
The thrust of the past three days was to provide quarterback Dak Prescott with added protection up front and more diverse weapons.
“I do think we wanted to do things, as Jerry (Jones) has said and Jason (Garrett) has said, that are Dak-friendly. We want to surround him with good players in competitive situations. We think we did things in terms of being able to loosen up the defense, keeping them honest so we can have the running game there that people do respect. We don’t want them to overplay that part of our game.
”I do think helping our offense out was important.’’
Post-draft Cowboys moving on without Bryant, maybe Witten - Shuyler Dixon, Austin Statesman
Changes are afoot in Dallas.
Dallas still addressed a pair of positions that figure to look dramatically different after years of Bryant and Witten at or near the top of the club’s list of receiving leaders.
A day after drafting receiver Michael Gallup in the third round, the Cowboys traded one of their three picks in the sixth Saturday to the Los Angeles Rams for receiver Tavon Austin, the eighth overall pick out of West Virginia in 2013.
The Cowboys took a tight end with the second of two picks in the fourth round, Stanford’s Dalton Schultz.
“I think we’re better because I think we’ve got a great read on where we were as we sort through Dez, as we sort through the what-ifs of Witten,” said Jerry Jones, the owner and general manager. “I think we’ve got more clarity now than we did when we started the draft.”
“When you lose a player like Dez and what he’s brought to the table throughout his career, we’re remaking our receiving room,” Executive Vice President Stephen Jones said. “I do think we wanted to do things that, as Jerry has said, that’s Dak-friendly.”
Cowboys draft highlights new Dak Prescott-friendly offense in post-Dez Bryant world - Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
It's a brave new world for the Dallas Cowboys.
The revamping of the Cowboys' now Dak Prescott-friendly passing game and offense crystallized even further during the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Cowboys wanted a stable of pass catchers who ran precise routes and were disciplined in their approach. They found that Prescott is a quarterback who likes to go through his reads and throw to the open player rather than having to focus on getting the ball to one primary target.
As great as Bryant was, running precise routes and being where he was supposed to be on time were not his strong suits. Hurns and Thompson do have those traits, and that’s what the Cowboys focused on when they evaluated the receivers in the draft. Gallup and Wilson check the boxes as well.
“We said we weren’t going to have an elite 1 receiver,” Jones said. “We said we're going to have to do it by committee by numbers or by scheme. I think this draft represented that. We honored the fact that the top receiver wasn’t that. We drafted that way. Having a real clarity as to what we weren’t going to be helps you make those decisions. I think we are better because I think we had a great read on where we were. As we sort through Dez and the ‘what ifs’ on Witten and where we are in the offense line, I think we got more clarity."
Are you wondering why Austin wasn’t as productive in 2017? Well, maybe an offseason removed from a wrist injury will help.
6. Why he was traded
Austin now calls Dallas home due to his falling out of the rotation in the Rams offense. Last season was one of his least productive in his career.
Austin said his production dipped last season because he had left wrist surgery May 2 to repair a torn ligament and he “rushed to get back.” He also injured his hamstring the third day of training camp.
Austin said the wrist injury bothered him all of last season and he’s still not 100 percent recovered.
From the Rams side of things, read what Sean McVay and GM Les Snead had to say about the dynamic playmaker:
“If I were to say anything about one of my favorite human beings on the planet — [he’s] one of the most competitive, mentally tough [people]. Glad I was a part of his life. Though to make those decisions,” Snead said. “Last year Tavon, unfortunately, when Sean got here, he had the wrist injury and couldn’t get on the field and fell behind. Unfortunately for him, we kind of moved on in terms of adding people to the roster and by the time he was able to get back, was never really able to get into the rotation.
“So, we did feel like Tavon deserved a chance to go try to be Tavon,” Snead continued. “But, I can’t say enough about that human being — just what he went through last year, where he was at on the depth chart by the end, but still being an unbelievable team guy.”
“[I]n this short year that you’re around him, what a special, unique person he is,” McVay said. “Clearly an incredible talent where you see the athleticism, the explosiveness that he has to be able to create the big plays. I think you find out a lot about people when they go through some hardships or some adversity and all he continued to demonstrate is that he’s all about the right stuff. Can’t really echo enough about what Les said, just the amount of respect you have for the human being.”
Want to hear the official call between the Cowboys and Austin when the speedy running back was traded? Hit the link.
Yours truly wrote on what Tavon Austin can bring to this new-look Cowboys offense. Hint: speed and lots of versatility.
As a running back in the Cowboys system, Austin won’t have to be “the guy”; rather, he will likely be utilized as third-down and change-of-pace back for when Ezekiel Elliott needs a breather. Or, when the Cowboys want to change things up and add a wrinkle.
The acquisition of Austin gives Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan a variety of different options to play with. If the Cowboys want to use the former first-rounder as a running back, his 1,200+ rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns shows he can make an impact. Austin can also be a factor as a receiver in the backfield, giving the Cowboys two pass catchers at the running back position.
Austin brings value in three areas for the Cowboys: a speedy back that can complement Zeke, Rod Smith, and the newly acquired bruising back Bo Scarbrough, a dynamic slot receiver for Dak Prescott that is likely an upgrade over Switzer, and a return man that can take a punt to the house — all can drastically improve a team that was battling for a playoff berth in late December.
One of the biggest gets for the Cowboys this offseason was getting a first-round talent in Connor Williams at pick 50. Nick Eatman sits down with the potential new starting left guard.
Looks like he is already getting to work, too:
The fourth-round selection of Dorance Armstrong was a little surprising, but Davison explains that the Cowboys were hoping he would fall to them and were thrilled when he did.
The player the Cowboys wanted – Kansas pass rusher Dorance Armstrong Jr. – fell to them in the fourth round. In the end, the Cowboys kept their picks and got their guy without making a move.
Armstrong had 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in 2016, including a dominant showing in Kansas’ upset victory over Texas. In 2017, though, he regressed from a production standpoint with just 1.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss.
The Cowboys certainly believe Armstrong is more of the 2016 player than the 2017 player.
”Big discussion in the room,” Stephen Jones said. “They had injuries there at Kansas and converted to a 3-4 early in the season because of injuries. I think he put on some weight and kept that weight on and really felt like that was in the best interest of the team. He’s an ultimate team guy who is just what we’re looking for and matches up with what Rod [Marinelli] is all about.
”We did watch quite a bit of the 2016 tape, and it’s impressive. We just think he really brings some unique pass rushing skills. ... He’s an A-plus guy in terms of his football character. I think we’re going to have a heck of a football player here.”
Brugler gives his take on the Cowboy’s day three picks.
4th round (116 overall)
Dorance Armstrong, DE, Kansas (6-4, 257, 4.87)
A two-year starter at Kansas, Armstrong saw action rushing from both sides of the formation with his hand on the ground, but showed more juice when rushing from a stand-up position. He put his name on the NFL radar after his 10-sack sophomore year with positive outings vs. the Big 12’s top tackles (including his new Dallas teammate Conner Williams), but opponents kept him quiet in 2017.
Although he doesn’t get home enough due to rudimentary pass rush moves, Armstrong flashes upfield burst to affect the pocket. Despite playing for a program with a 3-33 record the last three seasons, his motor doesn’t shut down, showing the same hustle for all four quarters. Overall, Armstrong is a balanced athlete with a basketball background and the pass rush potential worth developing.
Jerry’s got jokes:
The former Boise State linebacker was sitting in the green room at AT&T Stadium during the first round of the draft when he got a call. At first, he thought it was the Cowboys, but then he wasn’t so sure after the voice on the line said he was representing another team.
”I think he tried pulling my leg [on the call], he said, ‘This is the Green Bay Packers.’ I was like, ‘Uhhhh?’” Vander Esch said, describing the conversation in an interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio.
Eventually, Jones let his new first-rounder in on the joke.
”I was like, ‘No, I just talked to the GM of the Cowboys.’ And then he was like, ‘No, this is Jerry Jones.’ And I was like, ‘Ahh, OK, good, you almost made me have a heart attack,’” Vander Esch said.
PFF is high on the Cowboys’ draft.
Clearly, team needs and actual fit within particular schemes must still be factored in when determining the worthiness of a team’s draft class. But based on pure performance and value, PFF determined the Cowboys had an elite draft.
Leighton Vander Esch may have divided Cowboys Nation but to the performance graders at PFF, it was an A+ pick. Rated as the second linebacker in the draft, LVE was among college football’s most productive players. He led FBS in in total run stops at 57 as well as in run stop percentage with 15.9 percent.
Connor Williams, drafted at pick 50, was also the second best player at his position. PFF ranked him the 15th best player overall and one of the most promising offensive linemen in the draft. Again, this was based off of his total body of work in his college career. No cheery-picking or speculation.
Tom grades the Cowboys’ draft and two trades. He loves him some Connor Williams.
Round 2, pick 50
Connor Williams was drafted to move to guard and take over the LG job. I have made no secret of my belief that this was the most important position for Dallas to address in the draft, and that they had to get one no later than day two. The team waited until the second round because they felt there would be more talent here than at linebacker, and the way the draft played out verifies that they were correct. It got a little nerve-wracking as there was a run on O line in the second round before the Cowboys went on the clock, but Williams was there. He was rated a late-first-round-talent by many draftniks, and the Cowboys likely had him as no worse than top of the second round on their board. The best pick of the entire draft.
We’re still waiting on official word about Jason Witten.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten continues to contemplate his decision to retire in order to join ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast team, but a source said another network has made an “interesting” last-minute proposal that is also being pondered by Witten.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is actively trying to persuade Witten to play a 16th season in 2018, a team source said.
Witten hopes to have a final decision in the next 48 hours, with an announcement likely by Wednesday, a source said.